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Posted on 12-10-2014

An important decision every pet owner needs to make is whether to spay or neuter their pet. Currently, there is an overpopulation of dogs and cats, which leads to millions of animals being euthanized each year. In addition, many animals are strays with inadequate food and shelter.

Myths

There are many misconceptions about spaying and neutering pets.

(1) Some owners believe pets will gain weight or get lazy after sterilization.

This is false. Pets gain weight due to lack of exercise and overfeeding, not because of spaying or neutering.

(2) Some people believe castrated pets aren't able to work or hunt as well.

This idea is false. Your pet's ability to play, work, or hunt will not be affected once they recover from their surgery.

 (3) Some believe female pets can't be spayed until after they go into heat the first time.

This statement is false. Actually, female pets are better protected from certain diseases if they are spayed early in life, especially BEFORE their first heat cycle.

(4) Some owners believe spaying and neutering is too expensive.

This is also false. Sterilization surgery is more cost effective than dealing with the possible consequences of your pet's uncontrolled mating instinct. Unsterilized pets are more likely to roam, which makes them a target for wild or other aggressive animals. Fighting can result in serious injuries, which require emergency veterinary care. Roaming also increases your pet's chances of getting hit by a car. If your pet survives the encounter, it can lead to major trauma requiring extensive veterinary surgery and hospitalization. Unsterilized females can produce multiple litters in their lifetime, which results in increased veterinary costs to care for the mother and her young.

Benefits

There are many advantages in spaying or neutering your pet.

(1) Sterilizing your pet reduces the overpopulation of cats and dogs and decreases the animals that end up  euthanized or homeless struggling on the streets.  

(2) Spaying your female pet before her first heat cycle prevents or reduces the chance of uterine infections or breast cancer.

(3) If your male pets are neutered, prostate disease or testicular cancer can be prevented or reduced, especially if he is neutered before 6 months.

(4) Spaying and neutering improves behavior by decreasing your pet's reproductive hormones and their mating instinct. Sterilized females won't go into heat, and behaviors such as fighting, yowling and urinating in unexpected areas will decrease. Sterilized males are usually more calm and less aggressive. They are more content to be at home, and less likely to fight, roam or escape.

Surgery

Before surgery, your veterinarian will examine your pet to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. Pets with a history of health problems or older pets may need blood work prior to surgery for further evaluation. Anesthesia will be used to ensure your pet remains pain free and has a continual supply of oxygen during the surgery.

For females, a spay usually involves removal of the reproductive organs, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This is called an ovariohysterectomy. For males, a neuter or castration involves the removal of the testicles, which are male sex organs. This is called an orchiectomy.

Risks

Spays and neuters are performed routinely in veterinary clinics every day. The majority of these surgeries occur without any problems. However, there is a low risk of possible complications. For spay surgeries, possible problems include bleeding, infection, urinary incontinence, and suture reactions. For neuter surgeries, possible complications include bleeding, infection, scrotal swelling, and suture reactions. Though exceedingly rare, death may occur due to unknown congenital issues, allergies, or anesthesia reactions.

Recovery

After surgery, you will need to keep your pet warm and dry. Pain medication is usually prescribed for your pet to keep them comfortable at home. A restraint collar may be needed to prevent your pet from chewing at the sutures in the surgical site. You will need to check the incision site daily for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. If any of these signs occur, you should notify your veterinarian. Jumping should be restricted until the sutures are removed, which is usually 14 days after the surgery. If your pet develops vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, severe pain, or lack of appetite, your veterinarian should be contacted.

Conclusion

Whether to spay or neuter your pets is an important decision for every pet owner. Your decision will impact yourself, your pet, and your community. Please take the time to discuss these issues with your veterinarian, so you can make an informed decision for your pet. If you have any questions about spaying or neutering your pet, your veterinarian will be pleased to answer them for you.

Sources

ASPCA, "Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet."

AVMA, "Spaying and Neutering."

ASPCA, "Spay-Neuter."

AVMA TV, "Spaying and Neutering - The Responsible Thing to Do."

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